Lucy and Todd

Diaries of a Dying Man – William Soutar

In The Gloves Are Off : Thoughts on Literature on January 27, 2012 at 3:27 pm

Soutar on love:

‘… the silent things of earth…proclaim…that nothing exists of itself and for itself, but that all are sustained by all … Sometimes we may wonder why the relationship of man and woman occupies so large a portion of life and art—-but the reason is obvious enough. For the majority of folk, the mutuality of sex is the one relationship which links them to life in vital partnership. Even at its nadir, sex exemplifies the law of gain by reciprocity; even at its blindest… But in true love, sex is the common ground whereon all may find the joy of creative experience. The other becomes a quintessential knowledge of life’s loveliness, of life’s demand for unconditional trust, of life’s basic interdependence, so that in the tangible we have a vision of the oneness of all things. And with the child, the creative act of faith is come to fullness; in the child, desire and life’s need meet, and there both death and life meet and are indistinguishable.’

Soutar’s diaries contain a lot of philosophizing, sometimes veering on dryness, but this is an example of his really passionate and inspiring theoretical thinking. In the book, such deliberations are humanely interrupted by humorous asides about his visitors, who plagued him, and occasional shamed bursts of lust for the maid, etc. One visitor clearly only came for the cigarettes – his eye would dart to the cigarette box on the mantle as soon as he arrived and, after smoking about ten of them, the guy would take one more for the road.

Enduring the patronizing hypocrisies of fake benevolence is an additional burden of the ill. My mother in her wheelchair attracted all kinds of self-centered philanthropists (no doubt assuaging ancient guilt complexes by visiting invalids) and other assorted time-fillers, some of them true friends. One guy came over EVERY WEEK, only to beat her at Scrabble.


  1. […] at home writing include Tibor Fischer’s Voyage to The End of The Room and William Soutar’s Diaries of a Dying Man. You can read all of Bernadette Mayer’s classic Studying Hunger here. She tracks her mind […]

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